Wednesday, December 28, 2016

cabackroads--Looking for Sun, not just on the British Columbia flag.

cabackroads--Looking for Sun, not just on the British Columbia flag.

travel dates: August 18 through 21st, 2016.

The weather in Dawson City was rain at night and then a perfect sunny day for exploring the town. That soon changed as the rain started falling during the day as well as night.

The decision was made to drive in the rain and stop in the sun.

The first leg from Dawson City towards Whitehorse it was rainy and cloudy for the entire trip. The more ominous sign, however, was that the leaves on the trees were turning color. Giving hints that soon that rain would turn white. Towing on a snow covered road is an adventure. In fact, it is better to just say no and wait for the roads to clear. In the Yukon that could mean NEXT May.

Whitehorse was no better. More rain. I still think Whitehorse is a special town, but in a cold rain it does lose some of its outdoor charm.

The weather cleared as we left Whitehorse, but now I was traveling on the same road that I drove just a month earlier. It did give me the chance to stop and fish for arctic grayling. It was a nice spot to run the dogs and cast a line. I did catch a nice fat grayling that was about 15 inches or so. That dorsal fin is something special on the fish.

The highlight on this stretch of road was High Lake in British Columbia. This is where the Stewart-Cassier highway meets the Alaska Highway.  It is a short few miles from the junction and the perfect place to spend the night. With the amplifier I did manage to make a data connection, but it was not a good as the previous month.

The sign forest was visited again in Watson Lake. A tourist trap stop that is actually a great stop with anybody that has a understanding of geography. I was impressed with the small towns in Idaho and Washington that posted their signs in the "forest".
The "Sign Forest" also has a good visitor center with Wi-Fi.

Once leaving Watson Lake the weather improved and so did the scenery. Watson Lake is a small town.

From Watson Lake it was all new territory since the way north was on the Stewart-Cassier Highway. Looking forward to hopefully seeing some Woods Buffalo and Laird Hot Springs including the award winning design of  the facility at the springs.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

cabackroads destination--Dawson City, Yukon, Canada

cabackroads destination--Dawson City, Yukon, Canada

Augusst 18, 2016

I am not sure where Sgt. Preston and his dog were stationed but it might have been Dawson City!

Dawson City was on the list for this trip.

The Yukon resonated with American's in the early 1900's. Between 1896 and 1899 100,000 people migrated to the Kondike to find their fame and fortune. I suspect it was the poems of Robert Service and the books by Jack London that forever made Dawson City part of America as well as Canada folklore. I did enjoy the Call of the Wild in high school English class.  In the 1950's Sgt. Preston was on the radio and TV screens. Even on the country and western charts the song Saginaw, Michigan by Lefty Frizzell had the Klondyke as a major theme.

The good news was that Dawson City, Yukon lived up to all the hype. Half the town is run by Parks Canada and the other half is still a working, living town. A great place to spend a couple of days. Bicycles are perfect for getting around town as most of the town is mostly flat.

So with the pictures....the question is Parks Canada or current Dawson City?? This is  neat Camera Obscura since you walk in for the view. More info here..... This one goes to Parks Canada.

CIBC bank centre. Yeah, I know Canadians cannot spell. This was my bank when I lived in Canada. The choices were between the Bank of Nova Scotia and CIBC. Back in the 70's CIBC was rather proud of their IMPERIAL past. So on my checks it was the Canadian IMPERIAL Bank of Commerce. As a UC Berkeley grad I could not pass the opportunity to use a IMPERIAL bank to impress my friends. Yeah, I banked with Wells Fargo in the 70's for the same reason. These days it is ALL credit unions. So this is working, living town.

The next one is easy. But I loved the false front. Working, living town.

I assume this is Parks Canada. Hopefully in the near future it will be "square".

An easy one. Living and working town. Notice the ads for Carthart and Leatherman.

Robert Service interpretative sign and cabin. Parks Canada. Notice the caribou rack on top of the cabin. A "required" decorating item throughout the Yukon and Alaska. I do believe the local HOA's insist on the caribou rack. Parks Canada.

Next picture....well this is easy. Working and living town grocery store.

and then.................

Then that fellow Jack London's digs. We are also back to Parks Canada.

Finally right on the shore of the Yukon River...Parks Canada. Next to the ship is a memorial to the sinking of the Princess Sophia. Here is the complete story that you can read:

The memorial lists all the dead including their purchased ticket....first class or second class. Imagine you decide to save some money on a trip and purchase a second class ticket. Then for the rest of time along the banks of the Yukon a memorial with your name and the fact you purchased a "second class" ticket. It was interesting reading the names and determining the social structure in Dawson City, 1918.

Canada these days is a much more civilized country. So much so that the citizens ask for their property back from thieves.

Here is the RV campground in town. I stayed on the "other" side of the river in a Yukon Campground. I would stay in town next time. As noted earlier, bring you bicycle for around town exploring.

The Yukon River and Dawson City are linked forever. Dawson City a great stop along the Canadian backroads. Well worth the day's drive from Whitehorse or approach from the Top of the World Highway. A high point along the 6750 mile trip.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

usbackroads destination--Top of the World Highway, Chicken, Alaska

usbackroads destination--Top of the World Highway, Chicken, Alaska

travel date--August 17th, 2016

The Dead Dog Pull-Out was a great spot that just happened. I was sure that the stretch of road to Chicken, Alaska and then beyond to the Top of World Highway would be the icing on the cake. There were long stretches of road on the map with little in map detail.
I was thinking that the road would be great and Chicken was just a bump in the road.

Chicken, Alaska is really cool. The road there, no so much. As you can see by the picture it is pleasant, but very similar mile after mile. For some reason the Bureau of Land Management decided that this part of Alaska was prone to overuse and limits overnight camping to designated campgrounds. Really?? You really need to invite friends for the trip for company!!

Chicken, Alaska was really cool. Yeah, there is a big chicken in town. These might not be SST toilets, but they were clean and get the job done.

There is a huge dredge right in the middle of town. A relic from the mining days. There are a few stores in town, two fuel pumps and a great bakery bookstore.

Chicken, Alaska is a great place. And it is a very hard place to ruffle anybodies feathers in town, particularly the Chickens!

The road from Chicken to the Top of the World highway is primarily dirt and wanders for hours. It is not that long in miles, but takes forever it seems. I got paid for driving roads like this. It was ok, on vacation, but I was not thrilled. Here is the cut-off to Eagle. You can see the condition of the road.  Pretty good, but mostly dirt. I drove it in dry weather under almost perfect conditions. It would be less fun if it was raining.

The road in Canada is much better and the road pulls out of the river valleys and up on the ridge.

The views go on and on, but no jagged or snow-capped peaks to grab your attention.

If you are into natural resource management the area is part of one of the most famous Caribou herds in the world. Click on the photo to enlarge and read the text.

There are pull-outs along the route. The Ram and Casita look pretty comfortable particularly next to the motocycles.

It was a long drive. Would I do it again?? Probably not. There are more scenic and interesting places to spend your time. Dawson City for one. That is the subject of the next posting.

Monday, October 31, 2016

usbackroads destination--Dead Dog Hill Turnout, Nabesna Road, Wrangell_Elias National Park, Alaska

usbackroads destination--Dead Dog Hill Turnout, Nabesna Road, Alaska

travel date: August 16th, 2016

Bugaboo and Snowpatch are NOT fans of the National Park Service. So you can imagine their surprise when they were told they were headed for Dead Dog Hill Turnout inside Wrangell-Elias National Park. There was not a dead dog at the turnout so they were a little concerned about which one would become the namesake.

I believe there were three cars go past the turnout in the 16 hours that we stayed there. The pull out had plenty of room for the Ram and Casita.

 The plan was to head for Chicken, Alaska with a stop to dump the tanks in Tok. That meant just an overnight stop. Wrangell-Elias is the largest National Park in the system. On the road I had heard comments about the Nabesna Road so i stopped at the visitor center thinking we would spend the night at a commercial RV park. Instead the receptionist at visitor center convinced me to drive the Nabesna Road and spend the night at one of the pull-outs. A good decision.

Farther down the road there are other turnouts for camping overnight. This is Rock Lake.

The other attraction at Rock Lake is that it is the trailhead to the Viking Cabin. Click on photo to enlarge and read the text. If your not in an RV this seems like a great alternative. Of course, dogs are not allowed on NPS trails so it was not an option.

Here is the official Park Service guide to the road:

After the bad experience at Denali National Park this was like a breath of fresh air. Except for the choice of the Dead Dog Turn-out even Bugaboo and Snowpatch like the area. They did make comments about breaking all the rules and hiking on the trails!!

Here is the link to the rest of the Park. Worth a visit.

Bugaboo and Snowpatch were relieved when we left Dead Dog Pull-out.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

usbackroads destination--Blueberry Campground, Valdez, Alaska

usbackroads destination--Blueberry Campground, Valdez, Alaska

travel dates--August 14th and 15th, 2016

It was a long haul from Tangle Lakes Campground to Valdez. So I was looking for a campground or campsite for the night. Valdez would have to wait until tomorrow.

On the internet there was note about Blueberry Campground just 24 miles from Valdez and located in a high alpine area. Two lakes with grayling fishing. That was enough to get me excited about stopping for the night.

Here is the link to the official site:

The fee was $20/night and there is no garbage service, plus you have to bring your own toilet paper!!

We decided a campsite number 9. It was kinda off by itself so the dogs would not be an issue for the neighbors. There was this little clearing by the campsite and I hiked up to it. That led to a spectacular view ridge that went for quite a way. Snowpatch was interested in exploring the smells. For a dog that sits and watches the view as the truck goes down the road, he wasn't paying much attention to the scenery. So I guess the smells are more important than the view.

All those views and for the dogs it was nose to the ground. Sniff, sniff some more and move and then sniff some more again.

Here is the view of campsite number 9 from the ridge. I believe you can access the ridge from campsites 10 plus and there are much longer allowing for 5th wheels and trailers.  The best lakeside campsite was number 7.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

usbackroads destination- Valdez, Alaska

usbackroads destination--Valdez, Alaska

travel dates--August 14th and 15th, 2016

It was a long drive to Valdez and I was thankful that Blueberry Campground, 20 miles, short of Valdez was available for camping. The next day I made the drive down to Valdez.

Valdez is a working town. It is the end of the Alaskan pipeline. This is where the the oil gets loaded onto tankers for the trip to the lower 48 and your gas tank. Well, most of the time. That one tanker the Exxon Valdez did not quite make it out of Prince William Sound.

Here is the Wilkipedia entry: The Forest Service got involved in the clean up efforts and it was interesting to hear the stories. Exxon also got the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 passed which limited liability to oil companies to 75 million.

Times do change. Exxon managed get their total costs of the spill down to about 4.3 billion dollars. The costs for BP's Deepwater Horizon are 62 billion dollars.

As noted, Valdez is a working town. Oil and fish. They don't mix well, but they do coexist in Valdez. Here is a picture of the returning salmon to a commercial fish hatchery just outside of town. It appeared that an area of 10-20 acres was covered with fish as they waited their turn to go up the fish ladders to the hatchery....and their processing. The bears were well aware and stroll down to "fish" and do the seals on the water side. An interesting spot if your timing is just right.

You can increase your odds of catching a salmon by fishing them from the campgrounds along the sound. It does have a certain charm to it, but I prefer my fishing a bit more primitive. Of course, given my poor track record at catching steelhead and salmon on the Snake River in Washington, maybe I should have moved the Casita down from it lofty perch at Blueberry Campground and joined the crowds.

There is a nice bike path in the area that runs back into town.

The original town site was destroyed in the Alaska earthquake of 1964 and the resulting

This video covers the quake in Alaska:

I was in Anchorage in 1994 driving towards the Kenai and kept looking at the landscape wondering if it was bad highway construction or what caused the environmental conditions along the road. And then it dawned on me that 30 years later this was result of the 1964 quake. Truly a historic event.

Valdez was moved to a new location. I suspect much of the charm and history went out to sea on that day in 1964. It was laundry time and shopping for groceries.

Seafood was also on the agenda. You can catch your own or save a whole bunch of money and just buy it. We bought our seafood here just as they were closing the "outlet" store for the season: The snow crab was great as was the other seafood. They were located down by the dock. Ask for will find it, eventually.

Stopped by this place and got some salmon eggs. The kind you eat not fish with! Somewhere in my youth my parents could not longer afford sturgeon caviar and we switched to salmon caviar. My father was able to buy sturgeon caviar on a minimum wage salary in the 1950's. On a pretty good middle class salary I hesitate these days when buying salmon caviar. However, place an order and try it on real french bread with butter. You will never look a salmon eggs as bait ever again. Solomon Falls:

On  humorous note this is how you tell native Alaskan's from the tourists. Native on left. The tourist must be from Maine. I do like the LL Bean boots with shorts look.

The road into Valdez is pretty special with glaciers and waterfalls. This must have been what Yosemite Valley looked like 10,000 years ago.

Just north of town is a glacial lake with ice bergs. The only people taking advantage of  the scenery and lake were kids learning to kayak.

Valdez is a pretty special backroads destination. Today, it is little know. However, a town where you can see more than two dozen glaciers from downtown is a pretty special spot. It is slowly being discovered as the blog site notes: Go now before it is "discovered" and becomes a tourist town rather than a working town.

Then you can always sound like a old-timer and state "it was much better before Oprah built her summer home here". Valdez is a must do part of ANY trip to Alaska. We only spent two days there this time. Next time it will be a week or more.

Leaving town this is the view in the rear view mirror. That will make you come back.